In a rare move, Australian media organisations have come together($) to launch a stinging attack on the Gillard government’s proposed anti-discrimination laws. The submission to the Senate committee considering these proposals was jointly written by eleven media organisations including News Limited, Fairfax Media, the ABC and SBS.
The submission criticises the government for extending provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 that make offensive and insulting conduct unlawful. They also submit that measuring “offence” and “insult” subjectively will “produce a legal climate in which would-be complainants are encouraged to be unnecessarily ‘thin-skinned’ and sensitive to offence.”
The significant concern is that these laws will have a “chilling effect” on content:
Throughout Australia’s media landscape, a wide variety of outlets currently publish or broadcast material which some members of the audience will, on occasion, find offensive. This content ranges from satirical material and political commentary, to informative programming on matters of historical or religious sensitivity. Whilst these, and similar topics, may be offensive or insulting to some viewers, this does not make them discriminatory. Rather, the inclusion of such content within the national conversation is essential for fostering robust social and political debate, and therefore to ensuring a healthy democracy.
The full submission by Australia’s largest media organisations can be downloaded and read here.